CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

Jazz Is Alive Online, or My Week of Listening Virtually: Day Four

Lee Mergner reports in on the fourth day of his immersion in online jazz performances over the course of a week

Carmen Lundy (photo: Janet Van Ham)
Carmen Lundy (photo: Janet Van Ham)

After Saturday night’s marathon online jazz session, I was happy to have only four streams planned; one fell through because of a ticketing snafu on the presenter’s part. The remaining three all had scheduled start times but were available to view at another time, for which I’m always grateful. Appointment viewing these days tends to be reserved for NFL football—not that I watched it at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8:20 tonight.

Day Four: Sunday, Nov. 15

6 p.m. Diane Schuur, Carmen Lundy, and Yuko Mabuchi at Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival

The timing of this online binge meant that I missed most of the festivals that did some sort of virtual presentation during the peak time of summer and early fall, many of which I normally attend in person, such as the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Montclair Jazz Festival, and Monterey Jazz Festival. Interestingly, the only festival happening this week was one that I had never attended: the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival, which would have presented its seventh edition around this time. I view that as a positive outcome.

Sweet Baby J'ai, artistic director of the Palm Springs Women's Jazz Festival
Sweet Baby J’ai, artistic director of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival

The vocalist Sweet Baby J’ai, the festival’s artistic director, organized this completely virtual 50-minute presentation, which she called the “Chance Acquaintance Concert.” Posted to the fest’s Vimeo page, it featured J’ai performing with a sort of house band of six female players, as well as a few songs from three artists, two of whom (vocalists Diane Schuur and Carmen Lundy) have performed at the festival in the past and one of whom (pianist Yuko Mabuchi) was scheduled to perform this year. All sang or played from their own home or studio, yet the video quality was consistently good, as if filmed by the same crew. Same with the sound. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the way that these pre-recorded shows allow for title cards and captions, just like a TV show. I don’t know exactly how artists pull off these tapings while playing together from separate locations, but we’re seeing more and more of them. In some ways, it’s opened up all sorts of opportunities for collaborations across cities, states, and countries.  

It was great to see J’ai and her friends perform, as well as to catch up with Schuur and Lundy. The latter, a very underrated songwriter and singer, accompanied herself on piano for two songs, one of which, “Jazz on TV,” bemoaned the lack of jazz on television. Ironically, thanks to livestreams and productions like this one, that’s not the problem that it used to be. If BET or A&E (remember them?) won’t present jazz, don’t worry, you can find plenty of online jazz on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and, in the case of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival, Vimeo. This presentation remains free to view on the festival’s website, so you can check it out for yourself, whenever you want.

Stream on the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival’s Vimeo channel.
Cost: Free

7 p.m. Ted Rosenthal Trio for Live from Ted’s Place

For a while, Ted Rosenthal was posting solo piano tunes from the living room of his home in Scarsdale, N.Y., where he has a beautiful Steinway piano. Eventually he shifted to presenting complete sets, both solo and with other musicians (masked and distanced, of course), calling it, appropriately enough, Live from Ted’s Place. For this edition of the series, streamed live on Facebook, he enlisted two close friends and colleagues—bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson—with whom he has an ESP-like rapport.

Live from Ted's Place featuring Ted Rosenthal (piano), Martin Wind (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums)
Live from Ted’s Place featuring Ted Rosenthal (piano), Martin Wind (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums)

The three played a mix of standards from the Great American Songbook and originals by Ted in front of a few friends and family. I do prefer shows with a little audience there, even if it’s just a few people clapping or laughing, like at a taping of an old Tom Snyder late-night show. Although the video setup consists of one unmoving camera, it’s well-positioned to capture the whole band (every once in a while he adds a GoPro-like view from the side of the keyboard). And these shows are from his living room, not a studio or nightclub, so no one should expect pans and zooms in HD. What was most pleasing about this particular stream was that you could hear Wind’s bass loud and clear, something that doesn’t always happen with many of the online jazz sets. Likewise, I had no problem hearing Rosenthal’s stage announcements. Little things can make a difference.

For every episode of Live from Ted’s Place, Rosenthal encourages the audience to donate to a particular charity that he deems worthy and relevant. Tonight’s beneficiary was the Jazz Foundation of America, which assists jazz musicians in need. There certainly are plenty in that category at present.

Stream on the Facebook page of Ted Rosenthal.
Cost: Free, but donations to a selected charity encouraged

7:30 p.m. Maysa with Kitchen Karaoke Sundays

Maysa's Kitchen Karaoke Sundays
Maysa’s Kitchen Karaoke Sundays

Tonight I went straight from Ted Rosenthal’s living room to Maysa’s kitchen, from which she livestreams a karaoke session on her Facebook page every Sunday at around 7:30 p.m. ET, though she sometimes does a makeup session on Monday if need be. Given her well-recognized gifts as an expressive and soulful vocalist with enviable range, how could this session not be a ton of fun? I notice that she puts up a message within the post saying that she does have the rights to perform this material, which is clearly a response to a recent change in policy by Facebook regarding the performance of music.

Tune in and throw in a harmony part or two.

Stream on the Facebook page of Maysa.
Cost: Free